- Type Evergreen shrub
- Lifespan 150 years
- USDA Zones 8 to 10
- Where to Plant Sheltered spot
- Light Sun or shade
- Soil Well-drained
- Design Tip Exudes Edwardian elegance
- Companions Arbors, trellises
- Peak Season Winter
Silk Tassel Bush: A Field Guide
Silk tassel bush is a name that pretty much says it all. Evergreen shrub Garrya elliptica is puts its Edwardian elegance on display in winter, when creamy white catkins that look like 14-inch tassels drip like icicles from its branches.
Adding formality to a shady corner (think: north-facing wall, as Vita Sackville-West did), silk tassel bush can be “kept flat against a wall, or hard pruned into a fan shape or espalier. It can also be cut into a hedge, or left as a free-standing shrub,” writes our UK contributor Kendra Wilson.
Although the sight of those graceful catkins makes you think of England (and thrives there, in the warm climate), Garrya elliptica is native to the West Coast of the United States. A long-lived shrub (with a 150-year lifespan) that grows 24 inches a year until it reaches a height of up to 15 feet at maturity, silk tassel bush also is a common sight in Northern California. Handsome specimens grow in the botanical gardens of San Francisco and in the East Bay, in Berkeley.
In a garden, find it a sheltered spot. For the most dramatic tassels, plant the cultivar ‘James Roof’.